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We value people

September 26, 2011 No Comment


by David Bode 

Do you remember the children’s rhyme about the church? “Here is the church; here is the steeple. Open the doors, and see all the people!” It’s a simple testimony to what the church is: the communion of saints. The church is not a building; it is the people who gather in the name of the Lord.

We are the people of God. We claim this wonderful title not through our own merits but because God, in His grace, has delivered us from sin, death and hell through the loving sacrifice of His Son upon the cross. We receive life in His kingdom through the victory Christ won over death in His resurrection. For the sake of Christ, God looks at us, marks us as His own in Holy Baptism and says: “You are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you” (Isaiah 43:4 ESV).

Throughout Holy Scripture we see how God values people. Even when Adam and Eve sinned and destroyed the relationship they enjoyed with their Creator, God says they are still important to Him. He promises a Saviour. He shows his care for them as He fashions clothing made from the skins of animals—sacrificing another part of His creation for the sake of the people He loves.

There is no better assurance of how God values people than the cross. As St. John reminds us in what is often called ‘the Gospel in a nutshell’, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). What a wondrous love! God says we are so important, so dear to Him that He even gives His Son to suffer the pain and punishment we rightly deserve because of our sin. Through faith in Him, we have the life God wants us to enjoy with Him, both now and forever.

 

Our concern for those around us begins with their spiritual needs

 

Since God values people, we also must care for others. The vision statement of Lutheran Church–Canada affirms that “we, in faith, as Christ’s ambassadors, value people as we work to seek and save the lost; as we nurture, catechize and encourage believers; as we recognize and use the gifts and talents God gives; and as we honour life at all stages.” Seeing the love of Christ for the world, we show His love as we teach, reach and help people in both their physical and spiritual needs.

We value people because our Saviour demonstrated His love for those same people. Yet, today’s world no longer sees Christians as caring, loving or supportive. From a worldly perspective, we fail to value people when we speak out against such things as abortion or homosexuality. While we intend to affirm the value of all people when we speak in defence of the unborn, the world says we fail to value the women facing unwanted or unplanned pregnancies. If we really did nothing to care for these women, the world would be right to judge us. But we do value these women and show this care in a many ways, including supporting crisis pregnancy centres.

In the same way, the world says we fail to value people when we speak out against the practice of homosexuality. But we speak out because we do value these people. We are concerned about each person’s eternal welfare. It might sound like a cliché to say we “love the sinner and hate the sin,” but it is nevertheless true. If we honestly care for people, we cannot ignore their actions if they are hurtful and harmful to their soul’s salvation. God tells us: “If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand” (Ezekiel 3:18 ESV).

Our concern for those around us begins with their spiritual needs, even as we care for people in their physical and emotional needs. This lesson is clearly taught in from Luke 4:

And [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And He was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at His teaching, for His word possessed authority. And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” And reports about Him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

And He arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to Him on her behalf. And He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.

 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ.

And when it was day, He departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought Him and came to Him, and would have kept Him from leaving them, but He said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” And He was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

 

Here, we see emotional care as Christ shows compassion to suffering people. We see physical care as as He heals the man possessed by an evil demon, as He heals Peter’s mother-in-law and as He heals the many sick and burdened brought to Him. But, we also see His love and value for people as He gives them a greater gift: spiritual care as He preaches the “good news of the kingdom of God.”

 

Love leads us to serve, guides our care for others and helps us help those in need.

 

This is what God calls us to do, too. St. Paul encourages us: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:2, 9-10 ESV). We can show our care and love for others as we use the gifts the Holy Spirit gives us “for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7 ESV) as we use our gifts in love. As Paul reminds us, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Cor. 13:1-3 – ESV). Love leads us to serve, guides our care for others and helps us help those in need.

God cares for people through people. Think about the natural disasters over the past two years in Haiti and Japan for example, and now Somalia. In the early days of the tragedies, news media bombarded us with pictures and stories of the devastation and the suffering. Now, there is less interest in telling the stories. But we still value the people affected just as our dear Saviour cared about them when He gave His life for them upon the cross.

Members of LCC congregations have supported generously Canadian Lutheran World Relief and other relief agencies with financial gifts. We continue praying for and supporting the suffering and hurting people around the world. These efforts all say that we value the people of Haiti, Japan, Somalia and so many other places. We show the same concern whenever we support the social needs of our world—donating blood, giving to the food bank, or volunteering in some other way. We care for people because we value them.

Jesus is concerned about the physical needs of our world, as Luke’s gospel shows. He lays his hands on the sick and heals them. He frees the demon-possessed man. He relieves Simon Peter’s mother-in-law of her high fever. It is important and necessary to do what we can for the physical needs of others.

 

God values all people; He sent His son to die for them

 

But the greatest need is still the spiritual one. Jesus responds to that need in the synagogue as He teaches the people. Luke tells us “they were astonished at [Jesus’] teaching, for His word possessed authority.” We don’t have to wonder what Jesus was teaching because He tells us: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

God sends His Church into the world with that same purpose. We value people as “we work to seek and save the lost” and “as we nurture, catechize and encourage believers.” God values all people and wants all to be saved. “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 33:11 ESV). That is why we proclaim Law and Gospel; why we teach God’s Word in its truth and purity. We want to call the wicked from their sin, to a new life that comes only through Jesus Christ. We help God’s children grow in the Word, into the fullness of all that is ours through Jesus Christ. We go, as Jesus went, to preach the good news: because God values all people, He sent His son to die for them.

That is the Good News of Jesus Christ: forgiveness of sins. As Jesus tells us, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47 ESV). We value people, when we bring them this Good News of a Saviour who died for their sins, who rose victorious over death and the grave, and who lives to intercede for His people in the glory of heaven.

The hymn writer Daniel March encouraged us to bring that Good News to the world when he wrote, “Let none hear you idly saying, ‘There is nothing I can do,’ While the multitudes are dying And the Master calls for you. Take the task He gives you gladly, Let His work your pleasure be; Answer quickly when He calleth, “Here am I, send me, send me!” (LSB 826 vs. 4)

We cannot be content while sorrow and suffering surround us. We can never be content while others die in sin and unbelief. “The person who looks up to God rarely looks down on people” as wise saying goes. As the children of God and as the Church of God, we value people: the people Christ redeemed with His holy, precious blood; the people He loves with a great, unending love; the people God values—and that includes every one of us!

Rev. David Bode is pastor of Foothills Lutheran Church in Calgary, Alberta

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